One of the greatest record producers ever, Poppa Willie Mitchell ruled the soul charts with hits on Hi Records for O. V. Wright, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Otis Clay, Ann Peebles, and Syl Johnson. But everything changed the day a young soul crooner named Al Green arrived at his doorstep in South Memphis.
They had previously met in Texas at one of Green’s gigs. Mitchell offered to bring him back to Memphis, but Green wasn’t quite ready to commit. “He wanted to know how long it would take to make him a star,” Mitchell told Andria Lisle in Wax Poetics Issue 9. “I told him eighteen months, and you know what he said? ‘I really can’t wait that long!'” Poppa Willie, with a heart of gold, loaned the young Al $1500 to pay off some debts, but without a contract, Al Green disappeared into the night. “About six months later,” Mitchell remembered, “the doorbell rang at six o’clock in the morning. I thought it was a man coming to paint my kitchen, but the guy said, ‘Don’t you remember me? I’m Al Green.'”
Willie Mitchell died on Tuesday, January 5, 2010. He was eighty-one.
Check out Willie’s cover of the Young Rascals’ “Groovin'” from his solo album Solid Soul.
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